The first American and Chinese diplomatic summit began with extremely harsh words from one side to the other, confirming the expectation of two days of difficult conversations in Anchorage, Alaska.
They sat at the table to debate the points of the central geopolitical conflict of the 21st century, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on the US side.
In the Chinese corner of the ring were Chancellor Wang Yi and top Communist Party Politburo diplomat Yang Jiechi. The two groups spoke briefly at the start of the meeting, around 1:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. in Brasilia).
“China’s actions threaten the rules-based order that guarantees global stability,” Blinken said, citing the most obvious list of US complaints.
Sullivan, for his part, said: “We do not seek conflict, but we accept competition and will always stand up for our principles, for our people and for our friends.”
The Chinese left nothing to be desired. “Announcing sanctions is not the way to welcome guests,” Wang said of the White House’s imposition of sanctions on 24 Chinese officials due to the crackdown on democratic opposition in Hong Kong, decreed the day before.
“The United States has to face its own problems,” said Wang, accusing President Joe Biden’s country of interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs because of a “cold war mentality” that must be abandoned .
“We hope that there will be no conflict, but rather mutual respect and win-win cooperation with the United States,” he added. Previously, his colleague Yang had said that the United States was using its military and economic might to take on other countries against China.
The high temperature of the initial session contrasted with the minus 10 degree cold outside. Blinken and Sullivan listed the thorny topics they would tackle: Hong Kong, the crackdown on Muslims in the Xinjiang region, cyber attacks, and economic coercion on US allies.
In speeches since Biden’s election, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his aides have set their limits on negotiation. As Wang put it, “Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan are an integral part of China” – so any American complaint would find its ears deaf.
Chinese diplomats rarely speak so openly outside of Beijing pulpits. “If the United States wants to deal with China, it has to do it the right way. There is no way to strangle China,” Wang said, mimicking the Chinese chief’s recent rhetoric.
Xi and Biden spoke on the phone once, and the fact that the Anchorage meeting is taking place may in itself be considered a step forward, but not much more than that.
The issue of Uyghur Muslims is clear. In a final act of his Cold War 2.0, declared in 2017, President Donald Trump made the United States adopt the Chinese repression of the genocidal group. Biden hasn’t changed his mind.
Wang even scoffed at the question, claiming that the United States is at its “lowest point” in human rights, and that “black youth are being slaughtered” on the streets of the country, a reference to the case of George Floyd.
On the palette of disagreements, there are territorial disputes in the South China Sea and Taiwan, the war for market dominance in 5G technology, and an extensive list of trade frictions.
The United States is seeking support from allies in the Indo-Pacific, whose leaders practically met with Biden last week. Blinken and Sullivan were in Japan and South Korea before flying to Anchorage.
As the Chinese accuse the United States of destabilizing the world in the name of its values, Biden has tried to tone its foreign policy more assertively. He tried to speak up against Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Xi who has been called an assassin by the American.
From a purely military standpoint, the United States is a superior power over China. In addition to spending nearly four times as much on defense, only ready-made nuclear warheads have five times as much as China’s entire stockpile of atomic weapons.
Economically, the question is more complex and this is where the geopolitical weight of the debate lies. The economies of China and the West are highly interconnected, and the intensification of repression in Hong Kong since the 2019 protests has not changed the story much.
On the contrary, China tops the ranking of foreign direct investment destinations, with 163 billion US dollars (just over 900 billion reais) received in 2020. There are approximately 900 billion US dollars (5 trillion US dollars). de reais) invested in Chinese companies that have gone public.
And most of these companies are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, a commercial warehouse through which about 65% of foreign capital flows in and out to and from China.
Dealing with this and China’s assertiveness under Xi’s imperial powers, consolidated since coming to power in 2012, appears to be the central compromise to be sought in the exchange of beards in Alaska.